Roche is buying U.S.-based gene therapy specialist Spark Therapeutics for $4.3 billion after developments in this area convinced the Swiss drugmaker to "step up", Chief Executive Severin Schwan said on Monday.
Roche will pay $114.50 per share for Spark, more than twice the U.S. company's closing price on Feb. 22, for a portfolio that includes a blindness treatment that has U.S. and European approval and other projects for haemophilia and neurodegenerative disorders like Huntington's disease.
Basel-based Roche is buying Spark as rivals, including Novartis, also move aggressively into gene therapy, where treatments for rare, inherited diseases command some of the highest prices in medicine. Spark's blindness therapy Luxturna is priced at $850,000 per patient.
"We've been watching this space for quite some time. We just feel it's now the right time to step up," Schwan told Reuters in an interview.
"The fit of Spark and Roche is really excellent. It provides us with a broad portfolio, it provides us with expertise across the value chain."